Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time Irony

Dramatic Irony: Fortress

In light of the riot, the husband's short story offers this question: Should he make the place into a fortress? Bar the windows? Build a wall? Should they build a wall with barbed wire? The irony in that endeavor is that this ends up being the cause of the precious son's death. The preparations are designed to save the family, but instead, they destroy it, and the husband and wife are, no doubt, none the wiser.

Situational Irony: The Alarms

The residents of the neighborhood think that their alarms are helping them and keeping them safe, but like many of the other preparations against invasion, they don't exactly work as intended. The "electronic harpies' discourse" becomes so familiar and commonplace that the constant noise allows intruders to break in under the cover of the din.

Dramatic Irony: The Silhouette

The husband and wife put a sign up on their property that reads "YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED," which is over a silhouette of a "would-be intruder" who is masked and thus "it could not be said if he was black or white, and therefore proved the property owner was no racist." Ironically, this couple is racist, being white people in the South African apartheid-society. They are afraid of Black people, afraid of the people who are different than they are.

Dramatic Irony: The Story

Much of Gordimer's tone and the structure of the story is laced with irony: this is a bedtime story that is nightmarish, not comforting; this is a story for children that is about apartheid, the Other, and a child's death; this is a fairy tale set in the current moment and devoid of magic, monsters, and morals. Through irony, Gordimer gets to her actual message: the dangers of apartheid and the inability to keep one's home impervious to the outside world.